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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Lewis Trust Group, its donations to Conservative constituency parties, Think Tanks and Palestinian Media Watch


This is a guest blog by Andrew Causon on the shadowy Lewis Group and its connections with Zionist media groups and the its funding of the Conservatives.

Perhaps it was the fact that the next general election was less than 6 months away, but when he presented the Dispatches documentary, "Inside Britain's Israel Lobby" (broadcast on 16 November 2009 on Channel 4), conservative journalist Peter Oborne did not mention the donations to 10 Conservative Constituency Parties made in 2008, all in key marginal constituencies.

The donations were made in the months after Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPC) for those constituencies had returned from a November 2007 trip to Israel organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). The donor was the little-known Lewis Trust Group, a CFI sponsor, and despite the non-mention of these donations on TV, they were mentioned in a pamphlet authored by Oborne & James Jones which accompanied the Dispatches documentary. The pamphlet is entitled "THE PRO-ISRAEL LOBBY IN BRITAIN".

The pamphlet lists the 10 Conservative constituency parties involved, who received a total of £23,500, (another £5,500 was given to Conservative Central Office on 31/03/08). All of these donations were declared, as can be seen by using the drop-down menus at the "Register of donations to political parties" webpage on the Electoral Commission`s website:

Details of the donations from the Lewis Trust Group are listed below:

Lewis Trust Group: Donations to Conservative constituency parties

03.03.08 S Basildon & E Thurrock Stephen Metcalfe £3,500

06.03.08 Brighton Kemptown Simon Kirby £2,000

11.03.08 Hove Mike Weatherley £2,000

27.03.08 Cheltenham Mark Coote £2,000

27.03.08 Stroud Neil Carmichael £2,000

30.03.08 Burton Andrew Griffiths £2,000

05.04.08 West Worcestershire Harriet Baldwin £2,000

09.04.08 Staffordshire Moorlands Karen Bradley £2,000

10.04.08 Burton Andrew Griffiths £2,000

20.04.08 Stourbridge Margot James £2,000

23.09.08 Northampton North Michael Ellis £2,000

Who are the Lewis Trust Group?

The Lewis Trust Group, owned by one of Britain's wealthiest families, is an investment company that operates retail stores, real estate, a wealth management company, and hotels. In the UK the company owns the River Island retail chain of 200+ stores. More details are available here:

The most political member of the family, it seems, is David Lewis (CBE, FCA) who has been on the board of the Jewish National Fund.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (which describes itself as an independent think tank) describes David Lewis as "One of the founders of BIPAC" (British Israel Public Affairs Committee) in their Winter 2000 newsletter
The name invites comparison with AIPAC (before which Barack Obama felt compelled to genuflect), although in contrast, BIPAC went bankrupt in 1999. A brief history of BIPAC is given on this webpage (though there is no reference to David Lewis

Lewis is currently President of UK Board of Governors of The Israel Center for Social & Economic Progress, ICSEP

This organisation describes itself as "an independent pro-market public policy think tank since 1984" and whose slogan is "Where there is no bread, there is no Torah". ICSEP is run by Daniel Doron, who the website spinprofiles.org describes as a "former Israeli intelligence officer and Special Consultant to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv"

ICSEP lists five pages of praise it has received which include these quotes:
"Daniel Doron is helping me fight the historic battle that is now taking place over the future of Israel’s economy." Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Israel
"Daniel [Doron] has always been a staunch advocate of free market reform. In the United States, such advocacy may not seem extraordinary, but in an Israeli society long dominated by socialist economic thinking, decades of unabashed support for free market reform makes Daniel a very rare breed." Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Israel
"Your materials are riveting, to the point, and analyse correctly what has taken place… Indeed, a free economy and true democracy march hand in hand, and they shall also lead to true peace…" Shimon Peres, President, Israel

"The economic growth spurred by open markets is the engine to counter Islamist extremism. ICSEP is the beacon for the free market in the Middle East." Mark Kenny, Rear Admiral, US Navy

Although the donations to Conservative Parliamentary candidates have been made directly from the The Lewis Trust Group, other donations to blatantly political entities like ICSEP and Palestinian Media Watch (see below) have been made in a more tax-efficient way through the Lewis Family Charitable Trust.
The Lewis Trust Group & Donations to The Israel Centre for Social & Economic Progress

The Lewis Family Charitable Trust, which is almost entirely funded from the Lewis Trust Group, donates to the Israel Centre for Social & Economic Progress and thus allows tax-deductible donations from the corporate coffers to end up in a think tank whose policy prescriptions benefit corporations with interests in Israel - like the Lewis Trust Group! Each "Trustees' Report and Financial Statements" has a section entitled "Transactions with trustees and connected persons" but nowhere is the fact that David Lewis is a "connected person" by virtue of being President of UK Board of Governors of ICSEP referred to. The amounts donated are listed below.

£25,552 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements - Year Ended 31 MAY 2009

£20,017 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements - Year Ended 31 MAY 2008


£9568 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements - Year Ended 31 MAY 2007


£9,342 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements - Year Ended 30 APRIL 2005

£14,276 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements - Year Ended 30 APRIL 2004

Another "Think Tank" to receive donations from the Lewis Family Charitable Trust is the Politics and Economics Research Trust, the pseudo-academic arm of the Tory front-group the Taxpayers' Alliance which received £5000 in 2009, and £10000 in 2008. On 29 December last year the Guardian published an article entitled "Taxpayers' Alliance charitable arm under tax
investigation".

The opening paragraph reads as follows:
"The charitable arm of the Taxpayers' Alliance is being investigated by regulators after the Guardian revealed the Torylinked campaign group may have used the charity to gain tax relief, normally reserved for good causes, on donations for political research."
The Taxpayers' Alliance has collaborated with Palestinian Media Watch, for more on this, see below.

The Lewis Trust Group & Donations to Palestinian Media Watch

To date two donations of £15,000 have been made in recent years to Palestinian Media Watch (see also which contains archived material. The most recent was mentioned in the Trustees' Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 May 2008 under the heading "General Charitable Funding".

Also:
Lewis Family Charitable Trust - Year Ended 31 MAY 2007 - Trustees' Report and Financial Statements under "Educational Funding" another £15,000 was donated to Palestinian Media Watch.
Palestinian Media Watch

There is invaluable information on Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) on the Neocon Europe website
from which some of the following is taken:

PMW (not to be confused with Palestine Media Watch (PMWATCH)) is an Israeli NGO founded by 'counter terrorism analyst' Itamar Marcus. The organisation's website claims that "Palestinian Media Watch was established in 1996 to gain an understanding of Palestinian society through the monitoring of the Palestinian Arabic language media and schoolbooks. Palestinian Media Watch analyzes Palestinian Authority culture and society from numerous perspectives, including studies on summer camps, poetry, schoolbooks, religious ideology, crossword puzzles, and more."

The banner on PMW's website, 'A Self Portrait of Palestinian Society' [emphasis added], appears to be a misnomer as it belies the organisation's Israeli credentials.

Beyond the moderate rhetoric of its official remit of 'gain[ing] an understanding' and 'analyz[ing]...culture and society from numerous perspectives', PMW's recent extra-curricular activities include alleging that Norwegian aid money is used to fund Palestinian childrens' television programmes, the purpose of which, according to Marcus, 'is to get hold of children while they are young and shape them in the way they [the Palestinian Authority/Fatah] want.' Marcus continues, 'No, it does not seem like Jonas Gahr Støre [Norwegian Foreign Minister] knows what he helps financing' [sic].

Criticism

While at the helm of the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (1998-2000), Marcus was criticised by Ha'aretz journalist, Akiva Eldar, ('What Did You Study In School Today, Palestinian Child?', Ha'aretz, 2 January, 2001 (This excellent article is a must-read).

who reported that: "In recent years Marcus has been making a living translating and disseminating defamatory communications against Israel, extracted by his staff from Palestinian publications. Marcus, a settler, used to work for David Bar Illan, Benjamin Netanyahu's PR chief, and served on the Joint Israeli Palestinian Anti-Incitement Committee. Marcus's center routinely feeds the media with excerpts from "Palestinian" textbooks that call for Israel's annihilation.' He doesn't bother to point out that the texts quoted in fact come from Egypt and Jordan.

Users of PMW materials UK

As mentioned previously, the right-wing Tory front-group the Taxpayers’ Alliance has helped to publicise the work of PMW (thanks to Viva Palestina co-ordinator Kieran Turner for putting me on to this). The text below (in italics) is taken from a PMW web page, boasting about its achievements in the UK:

Making a Difference
Media uproar in Britain over funding of PA hate education Jan. 31, 2008

In January 2008, PMW was instrumental in bringing about a media uproar in Britain. At PMW’s initiation, and with PMW supplying the documentation and participating in the writing, the British Taxpayers’ Alliance presented a report to the British Parliament showing how British aid to the Palestinian Authority had been spent to help fund Palestinian hate education against Jews and the West, including incitement to kill Jews and British troops.

The following are all headlines from British press articles responding to the report:

Daily Express main front page headline: “Our taxes pay for lessons in terror: Britain gives £47M to finance classes on suicide bombing.”

News of the World: “You pay £47M to fund terror. Aid used to promote murder of British troops.”

The Daily Telegraph: “Aid to Palestine ‘funds extremism’”

Daily Mail: “Taxpayers ’fund hate textbooks’”

The Press Association: “UK funds 'used for indoctrination'”

Daily Express: “Stop terror cashing in”

The Jewish Chronicle: “Your tax money boosts terror’”

PMW has since continued to supply British MPs with the latest hate education summaries from the PA media. PMW has been in close contact with the parliamentary group Conservative Friends of Israel, and a follow up in parliament is being discussed. Taxpayers’ Alliance strikes out on its own.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance was in Israel earlier this year, presenting reports at the World Jewish Congress, and the Herzliya Conference of the Israeli elite. The headline from their website, dated February 02, 2010 (referring to themselves as an NGO) was: "World Jewish Congress: EU money funds Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jews, NGO says"

Canada

Toronto newspaper The Globe & Mail published an article entitled 'See Hamas for What It Is' on 15 February 2006. In response, Samah Sabawi writes that:

"the Globe & Mail's editorial relied on Palestinian Media Watch - a well-known right-wing propaganda site run by Itamar Marcus, an Israeli settler notorious for his jaundiced views of the Palestinians. In fact, much of the wording (the translation) printed in the editorial came directly from the PMW website. Thus, the Globe has relied entirely on a scurrilous anti-Palestinian screed without referencing that source; I believe the correct word for this is plagiarism."
(Editorial Delusions at the Globe and Mail - Hamas and the Missing Video - February 23, 2006

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